TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — There’s a tree in Jennifer Patterson’s Tuscaloosa County home and another one on her house. But she wasn’t inside during the storm. Instead, she was outside, clinging onto a tree for dear life. Somehow, she survived to tell the tale.
Patterson lives on South Rosser Road, about 10 miles south of Tuscaloosa. After authorities issued a tornado warning in nearby Moundville, she decided to take shelter with her son at his home. After shutting the door behind her on her way out, she realized she’d locked herself out—without the keys to her home or her car.
“I realized I didn’t have my keys, so I took a screwdriver and was trying to get the [front] door open and get my keys,” Patterson said. “I just kept messing with it and messing with it, and [with the warning] in Moundville—that is not that far away—I thought, ‘I don’t have time for this.'”
As the storm moved closer, Patterson rushed to her backyard, taking shelter under brush in a nearby ravine.
“I was down in there, holding onto a little ol’ tree,” Patterson said.
She was on the phone with her son the entire time.
“He was hearing his mom scream. All I could do was say ‘Jesus watch over me, Jesus watch over me’, and then it kept going and going and finally I said ‘Jesus take it away’, and it’s just like you could hear it easing up,” Patterson continued. “Not knowing if I was ever going to see my family, at any moment, I just knew with the wind the way it was, and everything cracking around me, and I’m holding onto a little ol’ tree, and all I could think about at that time was this is it.”
A large tree split Patterson’s mobile home, crashing onto the couch where she normally rests.
“My son told me, ‘Mother you realize had you not got out of that trailer and you were sitting on that couch, you wouldn’t be here today,'” said Patterson.
Volunteers and area fire departments quickly cut down trees and cleared the road, as Patterson’s neighbors also endured property damage.
Reunited with her son, Patterson is counting her blessings tonight.
“I know the good Lord was watching over me, because how that little tree held me, I will never know,” Patterson said.
A GoFundMe has been set up for Patterson.
Power is still out for many homes in the area. Clean-up in damaged areas is expected to continue through Thursday.